16 January 2011

Hooked on Hot

As a practitioner of and [renounced] Iyengar Yoga teacher in training, I'd been warned of the detrimental effect and cultural warping that is the foundation of HOT YOGA. My first classes were Hot Vinyasa, without any real alignment, which only lead to wrist pain, back pain, and less flexibility than pre-yoga. Iyengar Yoga [and Ray Long] taught me the alignment required to practice with ease and increase my range of motion. But lately my muscles have been screaming for HEAT. In Ottawa, classes that offer REAL hot yoga (some call it hot, but in my opinion, if you don't sweat, it's definitely not) are few and far between. Friday I attended a Moksha Yoga charity class despite my rigid ego yelling:
1. But you hate mirrors!
2. The heat is a Western concept designed to get people half naked and sexualize the practice!
3. Remember that one teacher a year ago who assisted you in Uttanasana and pulled your hamstring!
4. They don't chant AUM! That's not yoga!
5. They don't use Sanskrit names for the poses; that's not yoga!
6. There are no spiritual innuendos or lessons imparted . . . they aren't yogis!

And on and on and on.

I ignored my rambling mind and just listened to my body. The result? I sweated like never before. I ignored the mirrors and practiced with the alignment that is the foundation of my own practice. I chanted AUM in my head at the end of the practice. And when it was all said and done:

My back pain left.
My flexibility had increased tremendously.
I exited the studio and inhaled sub-zero temperatures with an exhilaration not felt in a while.

I noted that Spirituality lives in my heart and not only the center where I practice asana. According to Patanjali, the very definition of yoga is: The cessation of thought waves of the mind. I don't recall any rules on how or what or when or how hot our asana practice is, though I would happily stand corrected if I somehow missed that sutra.

I loved it. I missed hot yoga. I'm finally starting to tune out the yammering chatter and listen to an inner voice, learning over and over again that everything is impermanent. What I needed then is not what I neednow, and the joy of the practice comes from letting go of our rigid, rule-making thinking.

Curious to know others' thoughts on hot yoga and spirituality?


  1. I tend towards being over-heated, so I generally avoid hot yoga, but I took a hot yoga class once. It wasn't super-hot (92degrees) and I enjoyed it. Not anything I felt particularly into or against and I think that part certainly has nothing to do with the spirituality aspect.

    I think your practice being spiritual - as you say - lives in your heart. I think anything outside of you has no effect on it. AND... as a note: John Friend says you should always remind your students of the highest purpose of the practice - that it IS spiritual, otherwise they'll get too caught up in the physical aspect.

  2. Hi April! I certainly do attempt to remind my students of the higher purpose . . . whatever that may be. I agree that it's the "whole deal" here, but I also wonder to what extent can I just lead -even the physical- and allow people to come to their own conclusions through the magic of yoga asana. . .

  3. I LOVE hot yoga and can't get enough of it. I suffered from a workout injury and could barely move for months - even with physio 3 times a week. Hot yoga is the only thing that has seemed to help. I go at least 4 times a week to Moshka.


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